Saturday, January 31, 2009

The end of the Season - Out with a whimper and a sneeze...

I had planned to hunt my ass off this week. I had vacation scheduled Thursday and Friday. The plan was fantastic. I would hunt all day and dine at my old haunts in the evening, spend some time with my Dad and visit my two or three favorite spots to hunt and draw the 2008 - 2009 season to a close correctly: A bit of shooting, a bit of skinning, some laughs, and a whole bunch of outside time.

Today I discovered that I am done. I had held out hope but to no avail. Not many things seem to work out every single time and the year end hunt is the latest victim it seems. There will be no year ending hunt this season. My last trip out (on MLK) day was my last trip for the season. I have managed to contract the cold of death and I am just not feeling up to the trip this time. It figures but... I will live I think. I am just disappointed.

To say that things are not going my way this year for hunting time away would not be fair and sound more spoiled than anything. I spent a large percentage of my vacation time chasing my own thing, shooting the dreaded tree rats and the white tailed ghosts of the woods around southern Ohio.

I've been in some really pretty country this year. These photos are from an earlier hunt that I just never got around to publish a post about. Just one more perfect day in paradise. :-) Thanks to the folks for letting me plug a tree vermin or two. (or in this case, miss them all because I was holding too low at close range... No kidding. Missed on at about 10 feet. Killed the ground in front of him dead as adoornail... Scopes have their disadvantages too I guess...)

As sorry as I am to see this season come to an end, I will repeat my thoughts of last year. I am tired and I could use a rest. I may just have to go back out for Turkey this year but probably, I will just take pictures and fish.

Of course, those of you who read this regularly know that probably 4 or 5 times in the months ahead, before Sept 1 and after the snow melts, I will find my way to a rifle range for an entire weekday or three and shooting will ensue. I have a new concept weapon on the 10/22 platform in construction right now and sometime next month I will post the whole thing with pics. She's a race car built from the leftovers I had with... a few additions. ;-) I have just contacted Uber GunMeister Chad Ottman and placed a 2500 round ammo order for the 2009-10 prep and hunting season. (about 2200 rounds for prep and testing. The rest for the actual season including re-testing when I am sure it is a problem with the gun and not my shooting...)

Until we talk again, be well and join me in celebrating the end of another great season under the tree tops. The squirrels are....

Saturday, January 24, 2009

HOGs in the Shadows: Combat Stories from Marine Snipers in Iraq by Milo S Afong

So here it is. I've been looking for a good book about military snipers since I read 'Marine Sniper' and had yet to find one. Two of the books I have on this topic do, in fact, sit on my list of complete disappointments. Not this one. For the first time in a while I have found a retelling of the Iraq experience that does not take the sometimes life and death situation and turn it into insomnia medicine. This is book to read if this interests you.

The stories told here recount the stories of a number snipers, on station, in Iraq, during various operations. All are told with a thrift that makes then each enjoyable to read but still with enough detail to make me uneasy in places. I loved it all the same. This is really well written and well ordered. I can only say, read this if you want to really know about sniper engagements. If you want to know about the 22 bodies in the street, half eaten by cats and dogs, bloated by sun and heat then read this book. If knowing how brave and how ruthless the soldiers who protect us all must be to survive, then read.

  • Readability - 5 of 5 - Well written and thrifty with words. Really well done.
  • Subject Matter - 4 of 5 - It's a tough one. Sniper's work is not for the weak or for the morally unresolute. The difficulty in all of it is overcoming the idea of what it is about and seeing the job for what it is.
  • Editing - 5 of 5 - Really well edited. It seems I am reading collections of stories more and more these days. This one is well done. The stories are complete and the book is a page turner.
  • Did I Like the Story - 4 of 5 - I did like it.... It's well worth the read.

We all like to talk about it, you know... what we would do if we were in charge at Gitmo, if we caught a Hajii in the street messing with a roadside IED, all the foolish and pridefull things scared men think... Anyhow, these guys don't just think it, these HOG's do it and these are some of their stories. Don't just read the words. Put yourself there for a while and see if you can imagine it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

One down... One to go...

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. "
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have to say that I find more than a touch of conflict in myself at the idea of hunting squirrel on the federal holiday designated to honor the life an memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. I was not clear why this would be the case. All the same, I finally had to reconcile it as exercising a right of mine on a day of rest, both of which are granted by the federal government. (Hey, those government guys are good for something it seems... although it still seems like dancing at a funeral in certain corners of my mind.) Perhaps tomorrow, more than the words spoken in his honor ever have, the legacy of Dr. King will be realized a little (or a whole big bunch) more. It was all about the content of his character and still is...

At 14 degrees this morning, this is by far the coldest day I can remember hunting since my hair started changing color and disappearing. My gear, it turns out, still works at this temperature although I was unprepared for the face mask to freeze to my whiskers...

I was hoping for snow today. I guess, when placing my order, I should have said 'while I am in the woods' instead of just the general request. It snowed on everything before I arrived. The sky was cloudless and clear as I have seen in January. The snow was the noisy kind. Not so much crunchy but noisy in the way it can be when it compresses under your feet. Made it tough to move at all...

It sure was pretty though. It appears to have fallen with no wind at all. This, in turn, produced this effect of a powdered coating and anything exposed turned white.

The woods was all quiet. In close to five hours, I heard one bark and one running in the snow and saw nothing. It was quiet and beautiful and asleep. It is nearly time to stop for the year. (Though I am considering rabbit hunting a couple of times just as an excuse to explore a couple of tracts I want to walk before next season...)

I have on more scheduled day of hunting before the season ends for 08-09. I expect it to go the way this hunt did. Next week I will be in the eastern half of the area. For all purposes until April (when rifle range Wednesdays begin once per month BTW... WOO HOO!) I am done in Tranquility on the western half. It always feels a bit like a loss when I do this but... I will be back.

And the squirrels will be waiting... and I know where... and this is one of the ways to go... It's like an old friend when I see it again in Sept. I can wait but I don't want to.

Almost time to call it a day again. Wife is getting dinner and the little one is going crazy and I am still typing. There's little enough left to say. This has been a great season. One more hunt to go and then... time to rest.
Tomorrow, we transition power to a new president. Despite the hype, despite the negatives played hard by one group and positives played hard by another, I find that I have hope for this. I believe that for the first time, in a long time a man of character and integrity and vision is stepping willingly into leadership during a time of great crisis and uncertainty... and I have hope for his youth and grace to carry the day.

"You wanna know how to tell who the winners are? When the game's on the line, a winner wants the ball..." -Coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman), "The Replacements"

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. " - Martin Luther King, Jr.

That's damn right.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Squirrels in the Snow

Everyone needs to spend time in the woods at Sunrise in January. Dressed properly to stay warm and keep the noise down there is this amazing silence that settles in right about sun-up. If you can wait it out you can see wonderful things... and if you are really lucky, it will snow on you.

I love hunting in the snow. Monday this week was just about the perfect day out for me. From before sunrise until about 9 AM it just snowed a light, steady blanket of white and I, being me, sat in it and watched. Then it started coming and going and things started moving around and being alive again.

The is an elegance and grace inherent to deer on the move. In a snowy setting with winds blowing and the occasional snow shower, watching them appear from between the trees, move cautiously in and out of view, and drift back into the snow haze is something other-worldly.

We could talk about the shots I took and the ones I left with and the ones I left in the woods but that would make it seem like every other day out hunting for me. In many ways it was but in the last five seasons hunting in southern Ohio I have only manged three days like this one.

I am hoping to get back out two more times this season. There is a forecast of more snow next Monday. I've got some hope about there being a two-fer in hunting days. It would be a first. Either way, I find that I am grateful just to get out. I am sad because the season end is coming but I am tired and I think it may be time to rest a while.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Lost Classics by Robert Ruark, edited by Jim Casada

So, big thanks to my Grandmother for buying this for me for Christmas. As I expected it to be, this one is a keeper. The Lost Classics is a collection of Robert Ruark's writings from various publications, a large portion of which we printed as monthly serials. Dating from the 50's and 60's, these writings provide a glimpse of a time and place this is surely gone forever. Ruark's style and knack for telling a story is reflected in each of these works.
Jim Casada has done an excellent job of assembling these. Having no frame of reference or firsthand knowledge of the columns Ruark published, I am at the mercy of those who can decide which were the best. That said, these were all excellent stories and worthy of finding their way into a book so they can be remembered a while longer. In short, this is a book to read if you like reading such things. The short story format makes it a good book for short bursts of reading and taken as whole the book is an easy, easy read.
  • Readability - 5 of 5 - While Horn of the Hunter provided a fairly in depth look at the man and the way he saw things, The Lost Classics is structured by virtue of the original context of the work (IE: Magazine articles) to get you in, get it done, and get you out again. Short and sweet... It's a really easy read.
  • Subject Matter - 5 of 5 - While Ruark's stories spend a lot of time talking about hunting and the outdoors, the stories here also talk about the life lessons learned as a boy in North Carolina. It's good stuff.
  • Editing - 5 of 5 - I like all of the stories in this book. I am certain it took a good deal of work to pick them over the others available. And the flow all seems to make sense.
  • Did I Like the Story - 5 of 5 - See above. Nuff said....

If you enjoy Robert Ruark's work or if you are looking for a way to see if you will, pick this up and read it. It's worth the time and will sit between chapters without any demands on you to know what is next... unless you like it and then, it's a good thing anyway. Enjoy.